“I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.”
These are the saints of God. These are the folks who join us when we take communion--the people who have gone before us, the people who founded our churches and loved our ancestors and taught our ancestors how to love others. And our ancestors have joined them. This is the comfort I take in communion--that I am not only connected to God and to those of you who take communion with me, but I am also connected to all those people who already stand at the throne of God in worship and praise.
And in John’s letter to the churches: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”
All encouraging words in a world that doesn’t seem very encouraging. I claim this promise for Aunt Jackie who died last month from COVID 19. And I would like to remember all the multitude who have died of this illness this year as the number of infections increase at an alarming rate.
And we have the Beatitudes. Diana Butler Bass called it Jesus’ Voter Guide. These words, spoken from a hillside, probably at the mouth of a shallow cave that amplified Jesus’ voice, these words were heard by common folks-the people Jesus describes in his list. The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Jesus was describing how the Kingdom of God would lift up these people he listed.
Ms. Butler Bass suggests we should vote for those who would lift up these same groups of people. I hope I have cast my ballot well.
That the poor and poor in spirit will own the kingdom, that the mournful will receive comfort, that the meek shall own the earth, that those who seek righteousness will be filled, that those who are merciful shall receive mercy, that the pure in heart will see God, that peacemakers will be recognized as children of God, and that those who are persecuted for righteousness will also own God’s kingdom.
I think of all those who are not fully part of our society because of discrimination. They are here but the powers that be do not want to hear or see them. These are the folks for whom we need to advocate and be allies. These are the folks who will lead us to equity.
And I think of the folks we have lost this year: the voices that have been silenced. My friend, Jim Law, who advocated for veterans and helped them to get the services they needed, he took unhoused people into his home--I can still take communion with him. I suppose he fits in the merciful category. My Aunt Jackie sought after righteousness and raised her children in the faith and I can still take communion with her.
My hope is that those of you who are listening to this can remember those we have lost. This year has been particularly hard because we can’t spend time with the people we love as we used to do. Adding a death to that can cause our mourning to be more intense because we worry that people are dying alone and afraid. My aunt got to video chat with her family before she died--she didn’t get to say anything but it was obvious she knew who was speaking and what they had to say.
I also think of this time of year as a kind of sad time. My mom died in early November 19 years ago and I still miss her, my favorite uncle died 15 years ago in late October and my dad followed him a few months later--they always liked to be together, and one of my favorite aunts died on All Saints Day a few years ago. So it is appropriate for me that this time of year is a time when the ancients believed that the partition between those who have died and the living becomes thin and permeable. I can celebrate the people I love who are no longer here and I hope that you can, too.
I won’t celebrate the Eucharist today but I am going to light candles for those people who have moved across that partition this year and also in the years past. May we remember them with fondness and recognize that our grief never ends so it is good to remember so we can be comforted.